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'Django Unchained': Why Spike Lee Refuses to See It, More Reviews UPDATED

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 26, 2012 at 7:16PM

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," which opened Christmas Day, played well at the DGA screening I attended, as well as the subsequent L.A Academy screening. Audiences are flocking to see it (we'll do the box office numbers on Thursday) and critics love it (89% on Rotten Tomatoes, 80% on MetaCritic). Of course they do--per usual, Tarantino offers up a meaty dish to be savored and interpreted, crammed with movie references and rich performances from a wide range of great character actors.
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'Django Unchained'
'Django Unchained'

Richard Corliss, Time

As in so many Tarantino films, the featured players, especially the villains, get the juiciest roles. Jackson, sprung to stardom in Pulp Fiction, is creepy-conniving terrific as a slave wielding sick power over his kind. DiCaprio, whom Tarantino had first considered for the role eventually taken by Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, takes several pages from the Johnny Depp fop book as the Candie man. Flashing his yellow teeth and waving his cigarette holder like the baton of a conductor leading the Ninth Circle of Hell Symphony Orchestra, DiCaprio is a jaunty, smiling Satan — and the actor’s first role in years where he seems to be enjoying himself. He, Waltz and Jackson are surrounded by a passel of veteran tough guys from the movies the director loved in his video days (Don Johnson, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks, Robert Carradine, M.C. Gainey, Tom Wopat), plus Jonah Hill in that incongruous, endless jape about the bag-masks, and QT himself in two small roles.

Peter Debruge, Variety

The "D" is silent, though the name of "Django Unchained's" eponymous gunslinger sounds like a retaliatory whip across the face of white slaveholders, offering an immensely satisfying taste of antebellum empowerment packaged as spaghetti-Western homage. Christened after a coffin-toting Sergio Corbucci character who metes out bloody justice below the Mason-Dixon line, Django joins a too-short list of slaves-turned-heroes in American cinema, as this zeitgeist-shaping romp cleverly upgrades the mysterious Man in Black archetype to a formidable Black Man. Once again, Quentin Tarantino rides to the Weinsteins' rescue, delivering a bloody hilarious (and hilariously bloody) Christmas counter-programmer, which Sony will unleash abroad.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

The anecdotal, odyssey-like structure of this long, talky saga could be considered indulgent, but Tarantino injects the weighty material with so many jocular, startling and unexpected touches that it’s constantly stimulating. A stellar cast and strong action and comedy elements will attract a good-sized audience internationally, though distaste for the subject matter and the irreverent take on a tragic subject might make some prospective viewers hesitate.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Django Unchained is literally all over the place. It twists and turns over an unbridled two hours and 45 minutes, giving history (and your stamina) a serious pounding. It limps, sputters and repeats itself. It explodes with violence and talk, talk, talk. Tarantino's characters would be lost in the Twitterverse – there's no end to his tasty dialogue. Not that you'll care. You'll be having too much fun. Django Unchained is an exhilarating rush, outrageously entertaining and, hell, just plain outrageous.

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

The most recognizable elements of Tarantino’s style are all on full, florid display: the self-conscious talk-talk-talk interrupted by spasms of graphic cruelty and gore; the poppy color and visual wit (Schultz’s carriage is topped by a tooth on a spring that bounces back and forth like a child’s toy); the nods and winks at grindhouse schlock gone by. “Django Unchained” might raise questions about whether Tarantino is trading in the very brand of voyeuristic exploitation he’s critiquing…
 

This article is related to: Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino, Quentin Tarantino, Reviews, Reviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.